Thursday, June 04, 2009

Welfare Dads

At the Furstenberg conference, Kathryn Edin reported on a new study of poor, unmarried fathers. This is the counterpart to her work in Promises I Can Keep on poor teen mothers.

In the teen welfare mom and dad "courtship story," there is barely any courtship - and what there is begins after the baby is born. The couple meets, "get's together," has a baby, and then, if he is still around, begins to know one another. The men describe their relations with the mothers of their children, as well as their child's birth, passively. The emotional high point of the relationship is the birth of the child. The mothers are usually excited about the baby, and normally become emotionally attached right away. The fathers often also fall in love - with the baby.

Poor men and women are usually mistrustful of one another, even if they theoretically are a couple and have a child together. The women don't expect the men to provide for the child, and the men fear that they will be dumped if they don't provide. Edin found that the men would often do things to accelerate the breakup - fooling with other women or getting arrested - so she would no longer expect anything of him.

The most interesting, but sad, thing that Edin found was that these poor fathers never expected to be able to keep the love or respect of the mothers of their children. “They are confident," Edin said, that "they can be good dads because all that good fathering takes is love, not money.”

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